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ACR Electronics AquaLink View Review

A simple PLB for those that need some marine special functions but also want to carry it on dry-land adventures from time to time.
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Price:  $499 List | $344.39 at Amazon
Pros:  Flashing emergency strobe light, very long battery life
Cons:  Heavy, expensive, no non-emergency messaging
Manufacturer:   ACR Artex
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 3, 2019
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56
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 9
  • SOS Emergency Messaging - 30% 9
  • Non-Emergency Messaging - 25% 1
  • Signal Coverage - 20% 9
  • Ease of Use - 10% 7
  • Portability - 15% 1

Our Verdict

The ACR AquaLink View is large, simple, floating, contains a screen for status, and features a flashing strobe light for pinpoint location. Its primary function is to send location, identity, and implied distress status to a worldwide dispatch network. It is vulnerable to the limitations of all satellite communications, It is also heavier and bulkier than other products on the market. As compared to the smaller and lighter products, for all but the most adventurous marine users, the AquaLink really doesn't do anything extra. The only application of the AquaLink that we can recommend is for the person that goes far from land in small boats and wants their same emergency device for occasional human-powered land adventures.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $344.39 at AmazonCheck Price at Amazon
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$350 List$279.95 at REI
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$249.95 at REI
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Pros Flashing emergency strobe light, very long battery lifeSmall, two-way textingSmall, affordable subscription options, proven satellite and dispatch networks, simpleReasonable initial purchase price, no paid subscription, uses proven global network, compactTwo-way messaging, on-device keyboard, smartphone interface
Cons Heavy, expensive, no non-emergency messagingComplicated to compare costs, texting on device is very slowOnly supports SOS on the device itselfNo non-emergency messagingBulky, tough customer and tech service
Bottom Line A simple PLB for those that need some marine special functions but also want to carry it on dry-land adventures from time to time.Emergency and routine text communications from the backcountry, in a tiny package.Compact, simple, two-way satellite communications using proven technology and relatively affordable subscription options.Compact, affordable “help me” button in your pocket.A two-way texting device with a built-in keyboard reminiscent of old Blackberry phones with slightly limited geographic coverage.
Rating Categories ACR Electronics AquaLink View Garmin inReach Mini Somewear Global Hotspot Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1 SPOT X
SOS Emergency Messaging (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
Non Emergency Messaging (25%)
10
0
1
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
1
10
0
8
Signal Coverage (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
6
Ease Of Use (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
Portability (15%)
10
0
1
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
3
Specs ACR Electronics... Garmin inReach Mini Somewear Global... Ocean Signal... SPOT X
2-way messaging No Yes Yes No Yes
Weight w/ batts oz 9.4 oz 3.5 oz 4.1 oz 4.0 oz 6.8 oz
Battery Life (hours) 35 Up to 50 up to 1000 messages 24 240
Waterproof Rating > 5 Meters IPX7 (splashes & weather proof, nonsubmersible) IPX7 up to 15 meters IPX7 (splashes & weather proof, nonsubmersible)
Pair with smartphone? No Yes Yes No No
Satellite Network Cospas-Sarsat Iridium Iridium Cospas-Sarsat Globalstar
MSRP $450 350 350 260 250
Dimensions (in.) 6 x 2.4 x 1.6 3.9 x 2 x 1 3 x 3.6 x .8 3 x 2 x 1.3 6.5 x 2.9 x 0.9

Our Analysis and Test Results

We tested the ACR AquaLink View for its utility to the typical all-around outdoor adventurer. The market of available satellite communicators is a dizzyingly complicated field. From ACR alone, there are dozens of subtly different products that all seem to do the same thing. In short, the AquaLink View is this company's top of the line satellite messenger for human-powered adventures. While it is this company's top of the line offering, it is even better compared to products from other brands. It is bulkier than virtually all options, heavier than most, more expensive (at initial purchase) than all we have assessed, and does fewer things than the top-performing competitors. With the AquaLink you get access to the world's best emergency satellite network, but you have to cart around a large and heavy piece of equipment and settle for minimal to no other communication options. The only setting in which we would recommend this product is for all-around outdoor adventurers who tilt their practice toward the wet and wild. If you push the limits of small-craft sailing and open-water canoeing, the floating design and flashing strobe light of the Aqualink set it apart from the competition. In virtually all other typical settings, the Aqualink is overkill in some ways and underwhelming in the others.

Performance Comparison



In a nautical environment  the inherently buoyant form and included upward-pointed strobe light of the ACR AquaLink can justify its greater bulk and weight.
In a nautical environment, the inherently buoyant form and included upward-pointed strobe light of the ACR AquaLink can justify its greater bulk and weight.

SOS/Emergency Message


The AquaLink View taps into the government-supported "COSPAS-SARSAT" network of emergency location communication satellites. This is definitely the best emergency SOS messaging network on the planet. For announcing to authorities that you are in distress, and telling those authorities where and who you are, there is no better network than the COSPAS-SARSAT system.

This system is monitored all around the world and by a professional dispatch system. That dispatch system gets a message that includes your location and information from which they can deduce your identity (you need to first register your device with contact information). Implicit in the message they receive is that you are in a dire emergency, with life or limb at risk. The included "free" dispatch service then contacts whatever local resources are most appropriate and available.

The AquaLink  with antenna deployed. Activating the SOS function of the AquaLink requires extending the antenna and pushing the big red button. Nothing more.
The AquaLink, with antenna deployed. Activating the SOS function of the AquaLink requires extending the antenna and pushing the big red button. Nothing more.

Now is the time to note that your emergency response is informed by the SOS messaging service you use and by local resources. In most cases, getting an SOS message out is the easy and fast part, regardless of which service or hardware you use. Local resources getting to you will take at least hours, and up to days, depending on where you are located. Any product we test that uses any of the SOS messaging and dispatch services is vulnerable to this same reality. While we call the communication service activated by the AquaLink View "the best", realize that many others use this same service, that the "second" and "third-best" options are really good also, and that the eventual response is far more dependent on local resources, weather, conditions, timing, darkness, triage decisions, geopolitical factors, financial factors, and the nature of the terrain you are in.

The bright strobe light of the ACR AquaLink is perhaps its most salient feature. In a situation in which a dark  aerial search is appropriate (pretty much just in open water) this light can bring rescuers in the final meters to your location.
The bright strobe light of the ACR AquaLink is perhaps its most salient feature. In a situation in which a dark, aerial search is appropriate (pretty much just in open water) this light can bring rescuers in the final meters to your location.

Non-Emergency Messaging


There is currently no non-emergency messaging option on the ACR AquaLink. At one point in history, just a few years ago. ACR offered a paid service that could function as a rudimentary "I'm OK" message through devices like the ACR AquaLink. This "406Link" service has been suspended for a few years now, but ACR's promotional materials still suggest that the service may return. If and when the 406Link service returns, your AquaLink device could provide a basic check-in messaging service to those that really understand its function and limitations. In that case, the extended battery life of the AquaLink View, as compared to smaller options we review, would add significant value to the equation. Greater battery life equals more "check-in" message options.

Signal Coverage


The COSPAS-SARSAT satellite network employed by the ACR AquaLink is truly worldwide. Satellites cover the entire globe. However, nothing about the AquaLink or the COSPAS-SARSAT network transcends the normal issues of satellite communication. All satellite communications are vulnerable to local "sky-view" circumstances. Buildings, dense tree cover, deep valleys, big cliffs, and other steep terrain inhibit all satellite signal transmission. It is entirely possible that, in certain types of terrain, no signal will get out from the ACR AquaLink nor from any type of satellite messenger.

The ACR AquaLink is full function  for a simple emergency messenger. Smaller products do all the the same essential tasks for a fraction the portability cost.
The ACR AquaLink is full function, for a simple emergency messenger. Smaller products do all the the same essential tasks for a fraction the portability cost.

Ease of Use


The ACR AquaLink is very simple in form and function. All it is capable of doing is send a simple "I need help" message. The greatest usability challenge is in understanding the registration process and the limitations of the product and service. In this way the AquaLink is no different than any of the COSPAS-SARSAT products. The AquaLink has a screen and various lights that offer feedback on its function. In this way, the AquaLink View exceeds its closest competition.
A variety of buttons and lights and screen displays serve to verify the functionality of the ACR AquaLink
A variety of buttons and lights and screen displays serve to verify the functionality of the ACR AquaLink

Portability


The AquaLink is large and heavy, for what it does. Other products in our test do essentially the same thing for less than half the weight. 9.4 oz of the AquaLink puts it in a category of equipment that will often get left behind. At half that weight, with associated significant bulk reduction, a satellite messenger seems to pass a critical threshold and be readily portable on any kind of human-powered adventure.

A sampling of tested satellite communicators. The ACR AquaLink  on the left  is bigger than all and all do at least the same basic things  if not more.
A sampling of tested satellite communicators. The ACR AquaLink, on the left, is bigger than all and all do at least the same basic things, if not more.

Value


The ACR Aqualink is pretty expensive for a COSPAS-SARSAT beacon. Ongoing service is free, which helps amortize the cost. However, at initial purchase there are options that essentially do the same thing for quite a bit less.

For human powered adventures  this device is just too big and heavy.
For human powered adventures, this device is just too big and heavy.

Conclusion


This product is suitable for a very narrow niche of users. If you fit that niche, you will readily accept its limitations and quirks. If you do not, there are other products that are much better suited to your needs.


Jediah Porter